Du Bois tried every possible solution to solve racism

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

W.E.B. Du Bois

W.E.B. Du Bois was a leading American civil rights advocate, pan-Africanist and virtuosic scholar who guided the struggle for black equality into the 20th century.

In his biography of Du Bois, David Levering Lewis writes, “In the course of his long, turbulent career, W.E.B. Du Bois attempted virtually every possible solution to the problem of 20th century racism " scholarship, propaganda, integration, cultural and economic separatism, politics, international communism, expatriation, third-world solidarity.”

In 1896, Du Bois became the first African American to obtain a PhD from Harvard University. He later taught at Wilberforce University, the University of Pennsylvania and Atlanta University.

In the late 19th century, Du Bois took issue with Booker T. Washington’s accommodationist stance toward racial segregation and oppression. Du Bois advocated a more assertive mentality for blacks in pursuing their rights. This led him to help found the Niagara Movement in 1905, which formed the foundations of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Du Bois also gained widespread recognition for his support of the First World War. He believed the war was a crucible whereby blacks could prove their citizenship and return to more equitable circumstances.

He castigated America when returning black soldiers encountered a reinvigorated racism: “It was right for us to fight…but now that war is over…[we] fight a sterner, longer, more unbending battle against the forces of hell in our own land. We return. We return from fighting. We return fighting. Make way for democracy!”

Du Bois wrote prodigiously on racial issues, history, sociology, criminology, economics, politics and slavery, and he was editor of the NAACP publication The Crisis for many years. His most famous works included The Souls of Black Folks, an essay entitled “The Talented Tenth” in the collection The Negro Problem, and Dusk of Dawn.

In the 1940s, the FBI began an investigation into Du Bois’ Marxist leanings. In 1961, Du Bois officially joined the Communist Party. He subsequently travelled to West Africa to do research for an African encyclopedia. He never returned to the U.S.

In I963, Du Bois passed away at age 95, one day before Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington.

Share this article on:

Facebook | DiggDigg |

Copyright © 2008 The Gazette